Men and Relationships

Over the years of working with men and their relationships, not to mention my own 59-year relationship with Joyce, I have seen some central issues emerge. The last thing I want to do is generalize, saying that all men do this or feel that. However, I have seen certain tendencies which apply to many men. If any of the following applies to you, take it to heart. If not, let it pass, but be sure you are not in denial. And women, please read the following. It may apply just as much to you.

  1. First, learn to take better care of your heart.Yes, by all means take care of your physical heart with proper nutrition and exercise. But also take care of your heart of hearts, your soul. Many men seem to have a tendency for workaholism, or as Swami Beyondananda calls it, the “do-be-do-be-do” imbalance. Many men are preoccupied with doing and spend too little time being. How about starting the day with a time of stillness, deep breathing and self-reflection? There are other ways you can find to nurture your inner life, like spending time alone in nature, reading uplifting books, or taking time throughout the day to give thanks for all the good in your life. “Soul-work” is a necessary precursor for fulfilling relationships. Plus, your partner will often feel less burdened knowing you are taking care of yourself.

 

  1. Voice your appreciation to your partner and to all your loved onesWe, as men, often tend to remain silent, assuming our loved ones know how much we love them. Or we assume our actions speak louder than words. Of course, our good deeds can convey our love, but it is not enough. Our words of appreciation are nectar to the ones we love. More than simply saying “I love you,” let this person know exactly what it is about them you appreciate in each moment. Overcome your embarrassment about being poetic. Your partner may be hungry for heartfelt expressions of love.
  2. Learn how to be more vulnerable. Intimacy is “into me see.” We need to let our partners see us more deeply. We need to feel and express our feelings. Yes, we as men sometimes feel hurt or afraid, but we’re often taught to keep it well hidden. Outwardly, we often present a strong, competent image. Showing our human frailty to our loved ones gives them a very wonderful gift of love. When we feel sad, instead of covering it up with activity, we can share it with a loved one. Instead of jumping into an angry posture every time we feel hurt, the vulnerable (and courageous) approach is to reveal the hurt feelings directly, without anger or resentment. Whenever I have done this with Joyce, I have short-circuited a potentially long, drawn-out argument. When I only show her the anger, I am keeping myself defended, and lose out on the love I could be receiving.

 

  1. Ask for help. We as men tend not to ask for help enough. This can be another way to become more vulnerable. Ask for help with physical things, but also ask for help with your emotions, such as sadness, shame, or fear. Showing your partner that you need their help empowers them and allows them to love you more fully. Perhaps the most vulnerable thing I do is to let Joyce know how much I need her love. Rather than appearing “needy” to her, she sees me as being strong and courageous. It’s empowering to feel needed.
  2. Learn to be a better listener. Really listening to our partner is a profound gift. Often, we can’t listen because there is so much clutter in our own minds and emotions. Or we often listen with the purpose of fixing a problem. Most of the time, there is nothing to fix, but plenty to compassionately hear. Also, taking better care of ourselves and being more vulnerable will help us to be more present with our partner – and listen more deeply.
  3. Practice taking the lead in the relationship. Too many times, we as men yield leadership to women when it comes to the relationship. It often comes across as, “Here, the relationship is your thing. You make it work better.” Women can’t help but resent this attitude. Let’s make our relationships just as important as our work. When we are dying, we won’t regret spending more time on our job. It’s our relationships that more deeply nourish our souls. Initiate relationship growth. Ninety percent of the couples who register for our retreats are signed up by the women. Invite your partner into a deeper conversation or to read aloud from an inspiring book. Initiate anything meaningful.
  4. There is no substitute for inner child work. Remember that your partner has an inner child that needs parenting by you as much as you need parenting by them. It can bring such sweet joy to give this parental nurturing to your partner. Make it a practice to sometimes see past the grown-up, powerful adult to the innocent little child in your partner. Gently, and tactfully, invite your partner to be held in your fathering arms in a physically non-sexualway. It is so important to not have physical sexual energy mixed in with fathering energy. Likewise, allow yourself to feel the little boy within you who needs the love and comforting embrace of the parent within your partner. This is another way to give a profound gift to your partner, and deepen the relationship as well.
  5. Reach out more to other men. Many men tend to isolate themselves from meaningful relationships with other men. I have observed that many men are nearly starved for father/brother love. Because of our fear of this need, we have pushed away half the population of the earth. Practice vulnerability with other men, and you will find it becomes even easier to be vulnerable with your partner. Deepening your friendship with a man leads to deepening your friendship with yourself. And this allows you to become more accessible to your partner.

 

If you want to go deeper, Joyce and I encourage you to read our two books, To Really Love a Woman and To Really Love a Man.

Scroll to Top